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Warning: Hot Button Topic Ahead. 

When loading utensils into the dishwasher, do you place them handle side down or handle side up? 

Call me crazy, but I just realized why my father would load the dishwasher so that all of the utensils would be handle side down. With the handle side down, the part of the utensil that is sticking up is the part that touches the food, the person’s mouth, and needs most of the cleaning. By loading the dishwasher this way, MORE utensils can be loaded and fit into the basket! This makes each wash more efficient and effective. No longer will I empty the clean utensils only to find a dirty fork that didn’t get washed because it was stuck in the basket, or find a spoon that still has dried up cereal on it because it was hiding amongst a bunch of other spoons. 

BRILLIANT! (Not me, the dishwasher.)

You may be wondering: does this really have anything to do with my spiritual life, or have I just spent 10 seconds getting a silly dishwasher planning lesson? 

Hang tight, sister, I got you! It dawned on me—right there while loading dirty dishes into the dishwasher—I AM THE DIRTY FORK. 

I am the dirty fork that is not placed correctly and doesn’t get fully clean. And when I don’t get cleaned, I don’t get used.

Who else feels like a dirty fork? 

My life needs to be put in the right order! Just like utensils facing the right way in the dishwasher allows for efficiency and effectiveness, so does rightly ordering my life. Placing everything in its rightful place will allow me to live more effectively and efficiently, so that I’m not wasting my time on the wrong things.  

How many of us wake up in the morning and automatically think of the always growing list of things that must be accomplished in the next 18 hours? How many of us soon begin to divide our list into sub-categories? 

When asked, “How are you doing?”, how many of us think for a split second, If only you knew how I was really doing, you wouldn’t want to ask me how I was doing. And then actually answer aloud, “I’m fine. How are you?” 

God created the sea, the stars, and land out of nothingness. He made every animal that crawls on the earth, swims in the oceans, and flies in the air. He created man and woman in His image. And then, on the seventh day, did He look at everything He had created and say, “Meh, it’s fine”?

NO! That is not what happened, my friend! 

God did not create you, the only YOU that will ever grace this world, just so that you can be fine! God did not create you to check boxes, make never-ending lists, and just get through life.

“I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

We just celebrated Our Lord’s birth into this world—the One who came so we could have an abundant life. And let’s remind ourselves that Jesus did not come as a powerful ruler or majestic king that had everything all together. Rather, He arrived here as each of us does: a helpless, dependent, defenseless baby. A baby’s survival is completely dependent on his parents. If a baby had to rely fully on himself to be fed, to sleep, and to clean himself, then he would surely not thrive.

Are you thriving? Or are you striving?

Could it be that our Good Father knew that in our humanity, we would have a hard time relying on Him? In His Divine Wisdom, He gave us His Son to use as a model. Jesus was born completely and solely dependent upon His parents. Are we solely dependent on God the Father? 

A sure sign we are relying more on ourselves than we are on God is when we feel overwhelming exhaustion—mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. We may feel as though we are just on the outside of our lives looking in, that we are checking out or numbing out rather than being an active participant—when we are that upside down fork and we are striving instead of thriving.

I don’t want to numb out or check out from my life! I want to live effectively, as a wife, mother, sister, and friend. Effective living means I’m utilizing my time well. Effective living means creating a rightly ordered day. Rightly ordering my day means first seeking the Kingdom of God. FIRST. Jesus gave us these words in Matthew 6:33 as a guide, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” In the previous verses, Jesus tells us what “all these things” are: food, drink, clothing, our body. Jesus continues, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34). 

Do you see what He did there? He rightly ordered our to do lists for us. 

Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, and everything else—our things to do, our families, our worries, our future—will fall into its rightful place. Everything else AFTER the Kingdom of God is a bonus. 

If you, like me, are the dirty fork desperately needing to be placed handle side down in the dishwasher, and you are unsure where to start, then I want you to read this next sentence carefully:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

And then read it again. 

The first step to rightly ordering your life and shedding ungodly self-reliance is to read the truth of who God is and have faith that this truth pertains to you. You are not left out of the salvation equation! God did not forget to add you in! And if even one ounce of you doubts this everlasting love of our Father, then open your Bible and read Psalm 139 or Isaiah 43:1–5 over and over again.

When we believe who we are and who we belong to, we can hand over our to-do list to Him, and allow Him to rightly order our day. Seek Him first, sister. I do not want to let one more day go by and not experience life how the Lord intended me to live it. I don’t want to be a dirty fork, and I don’t want you to be either.

Let’s ring in this new year with clean forks and a rightly ordered to-do list: 

  1. Seek first the kingdom of God. 
  2. Everything else. 

Blessings,
Jeannine

Our newest Bible study, Ordering Your Priorities, is an immensely practical study that helps us rightly order our lives. Let’s begin by paying attention to the One who made us, because He can best tell us what we need for our lives to run well.

What are the final thoughts that usually run through your mind when you try to fall asleep? Do you review a litany of unaccomplished tasks, mentally moving them onto tomorrow’s list? Are you thinking with dread of all that’s going to be required of you tomorrow? Do you feel regret over the way you have treated certain people who matter to you? 

Almost every night, most of us can think of many things we wish we could have done that are being left unfinished. We can’t always fit in a little bit more. A life well lived is made up of days when the things that are most important are done first and many good things remain undone. As Stephen R. Covey wisely wrote, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”[1] Our big rocks are our priorities. But how do we figure out what should be the most important thing?

I don’t believe that a single one of us wants to waste his or her life. We want our lives to count. We read Jesus’ words in Mark 8:36, “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” Or in other words, what does it do for you if you gain the whole world but end up losing your soul? We don’t want to come to the end of our lives having pursued the wrong things.

The world is constantly communicating its priorities to you. You are to prioritize having a perfect body, having as much money as you can, having an HGTV perfect house, and making a name for yourself with your accomplishments. You should be able to present your life in such a way that it lays out beautifully on Instagram—providing a feed worth following. 

But is that a life that is truly satisfying? Even if you were to gain all those things that the world says matters most, is it possible that you could lose your soul—who you truly are—in the process?

What kind of a life do you want to build?
If you want to build a life where you love well…
if you want to build a life that feels simpler…
then I’d like to invite you on a journey.

My newest Bible study, Ordering Your Priorities: Building a Life Well Lived, is where that journey begins.

Ordering Your Priorities lays a foundation that helps women focus on the things that matter most. Diving into the pages of Scripture, we’ll connect our modern-day challenges with the changeless truths of our faith. If we want to live lives of purpose and meaning, we have to start in the right place. We need to begin by paying attention to the One who made us, because He is the one who can best tell us what we need for our lives to run well. 

My prayer for you and me is that we would apply the principles contained in Ordering Your Priorities and create a life well lived. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” That is what we are pursuing here.

Join us on a journey to build a simpler life where you love well. Your transformation is just around the corner!

Love,
Lisa

[1] Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill, First Things First (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 161.

Ah, summer 2021. A time that will forever be remembered as the post-quarantine summer. The world is opening back up again, and some people are making up for lost time as soon as possible.[1] Others are experiencing what some experts are calling “re-entry anxiety.”[2] 

I wonder where you fall on this spectrum as things begin to return to normal. Statistics have shown that women were especially hit hard during the pandemic with rates of depression, anxiety, and alcohol consumption skyrocketing.[3] For me, I’m somewhere between making up for lost time (“Hello, live music—I have MISSED YOU!”) and experiencing re-entry anxiety (“Do I need a mask in this store?” “Can we hug now?”). Our lives look different than they did a year ago, and our habits have likely changed as we have learned to cope with All. The. Things. 

In John 10:10, Jesus told us, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” I feel like my life during the past year definitely wasn’t abundant, but that this year has potential. How about you? Do you feel like your life is abundant right now? 

So, what is an “abundant” life? I think having an abundant life means having a life you love, not one that you want to run away from. I also think the abundant life Jesus spoke of is offered to us here and now, and isn’t related to our state in life or how much we are “making up for lost time” post-pandemic. This abundant life is one of peace, joy, and grace. It sounds lovely, in theory, but how do we attain it? I believe it requires a choice—a conscious decision to get back to the basics.

“Do the work you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5)

In his message to Ephesus in the book of Revelation, John praises the members for their works and virtues, but admonishes them to repent and return to their former devotion. 

This makes me think that the abundant life (having a life that we love) and doing the work we did at first (getting back to the basics of our faith) are intrinsically linked. Will you take a moment and pause with me to reflect on the last time your life felt full and abundant? What were you doing then? When was the last time you felt close to God? What are you not doing now that you were doing then? What habits have you dropped? 

Summer is a great time to reset our calendars and our priorities. Here are some basic things I’ve consciously decided to re-focus on in order to live the abundant life Jesus promised us. Will you join me in getting back to the basics this summer? 

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” —St. Francis of Assisi

As we re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have some choices to make. Don’t be swept back into the hurried life you had before, and know that you don’t have to carry bad habits from quarantine with you. You can build a life you love—starting now—one step at a time. The abundant life Jesus offers is waiting for you. 

 

[1] Jordan Valinsky, “7 signs that summer is about to be lit,” CNN Business, May 29, 2021,  https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/29/business/summer-2021-back-to-normal/index.html.
[2] Maya Kachroo-Levine, “How to Work Through Your Re-entry Anxiety, According to a Licensed Therapist,” Travel+Leisure, May 28, 2021, https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/covid-reentry-anxiety.
[3] Dawn Sugarman and Shelly Greenfield, “Women, alcohol, and COVID-19,” Harvard Health Blog, April 6, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/women-alcohol-and-covid-19-2021040622219.

 

Are you tired of your list of good intentions that never translate to action? How many times have you made a resolution (and really meant it) only to fail within a few short weeks?

We’ve all been there. It isn’t that we aren’t aware of the ways we need to improve…but actually making the changes can be overwhelming. In her book, Girl Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis talks about this very issue. Sharing about how she has changed her own patterns and behaviors, she explains that she decided to establish a rule in her life that she would never break a promise to herself, no matter how small. And that changed everything. She writes:

If you choose today not to break another promise to yourself, you will force yourself to slow down. You cannot keep every commitment, promise, goal, and idea without intentionality. If you recognize that your words have power and that your commitments carry covenant weight, you won’t agree to anything so easily…You’ll slow down and think things through. You won’t just talk about a goal; you’ll plan for how you can meet it.[1]

But which promises are the truly important ones to make and keep? We don’t have time to achieve every goal on our list. We have to say a lot of no’s to say the best yes.

What I’d like to propose to you is that our most important goals are the ones that impact eternity. There are loads of worthy resolutions and self-improvements that no doubt make life more enjoyable. But if we don’t make our primary focus our spiritual lives, then our success will be superficial and short-lived. I don’t know about you, but one day when I am standing before God giving an account of the choices I’ve made, I do not want to have a bunch of frivolous, self-centered accomplishments to be all I’ve got to show Him. God doesn’t care how much you weigh, how perfectly decorated and ordered your space is, and how far you got in your career. But He cares big time how you have lovedhow you’ve loved the people He’s put in your life and how you’ve loved Him.

God also cares about how you love yourself. There’s a lot of talk about the importance of self-care, and I am all for it. But true self-care should be more than a bandaid; it should address how your soul is doing. Your heart matters to God. He doesn’t just want you to believe the right things or behave in a certain way. As a truly good Father, He wants your heart to flourish.

God never intended for us to navigate the spiritual life in isolation. His plan for us has always involved community. We need sisters around us who are encouraging us and challenging us to value the right things, and we need to be fed truth to counter all the lies we’re surrounded with.

So who is walking alongside you?

Who is challenging you to grow closer to Christ?

What is helping you know Him better right now, and what is helping you to understand His will for your life?

How is your heart?

Changes in these areas don’t just happen automatically. We have to make it a priority to cultivate these kinds of friendship, and then get our eyes off our phones and into God’s truth. It means we make a promise to ourselves to put the most important things, the eternal things, on our calendars, and then we follow through. We’ll plan for how we’re going to get to our goal. The perfect time for this is now.

If you don’t know where to start, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Opening Your Heart, our most popular Bible study. It meets you right where you are and offers game-changing, practical Biblical teaching. You’ll learn new ways to love yourself and others well. Commit to going through it with a girlfriend to increase the likelihood that your best intentions will turn into real change. Contact our WWP support team to find a parish near you that is offering the study and get to know even more women like you who are ready to kick-start real change in their lives.

I’m challenging you to move from good intentions to real change. Do you struggle to get your priorities in order? Do you have questions about your faith that haven’t been answered? Do you sense that there is something more to the Christian life than what you have been experiencing? Then come on over and dive in to Opening Your Heart. It’s tailor made for youa safe place to come with your questions, confusion, hopes, and dreams. I promise you, you won’t be the same person by the time you finish the study, in all the best of ways.

Order your copy of Opening Your Heart today!

With you on the journey,

Lisa

[1] Rachel Hollis, Girl Wash Your Face (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2018), 17.

This post originally appeared on our blog on August 19, 2018.

A risk we all run when we love others lavishly is neglecting to take care of ourselves. What begins as a passion of the heart-a pure desire to help-can actually place us in a dangerous position where we find it hard to stay faithful. When we coast on the fumes of a life that lacks spiritual discipline, we can find that we begin to blend in, and are no longer offering hope and a better way. We're just like everyone else-no different.

Years ago, I was driving home from my parents' house with my daughter. Barreling down the highway at 70 mph, we noticed smoke billowing from the hood. Just in time, I pulled over, as our engine blew up. We couldn't believe it. The car had shown no signs of any trouble up to this point. Imagine my mortification when I realized that the engine had blown up simply because I had failed to EVER change the oil. I guess I just got busy with life and forgot. I didn't take seriously how essential it was to follow the basic directions for taking care of the car.

In that same way, we can be lax about the importance of spiritual discipline. We can coast through life, much as I was in my car, thinking that things that were done in the past were going to keep us going indefinitely. We can have heart and passion, and still lose everything if we ignore these practices.
What does this look like?

It's going through life, too busy to pray.

It's having a schedule that is so full of activities and appointments that there is no time for meaningful relationships and a connection to a faith community.

It's getting up and getting going in the morning, without taking time to read Scripture.

It's having priorities out of order, so that no time is taken to protect and nurture important relationships.

 

May God bless you with a daily dose of all that you need to love and serve well,

Lisa

This blog post originally appeared on the WWP website in March 2013.

Walking with Purpose

As I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store today, I noticed the woman behind me showing her daughter the delicious deli-prepared meals in their cart. I looked back at my two bulging shopping carts and thought ahead to the hours it was going to take me to make the meals for the week. She caught my eye and looked at all my food, so I explained that I have seven kids and that three of them are teenage boys. “Oh, enjoy it,” she smiled. “The time goes so fast!”

“Really?” I wondered. Because sometimes it can feel like time moves slowly, and that I've been doing the same things, over and over again, for ages. People say that the days are long but the years are short. I can see how that's true. But my reality is that when little Charlotte heads off to college, I'll be sixty, and we will have been parenting for thirty-seven years. That's a lot of meal preparation.

After I got home and unpacked the groceries, I made a cup of tea. It was 5 p.m. That's the time of day I most want to sit down, but if I do, I find it really hard to get back up. The clock crept toward 5:30 p.m., then 6 p.m., and my family started getting hungry. I announced that I just didn't feel like making dinner. What I really wanted was for Alice from the Brady Bunch to come through the door and make dinner for us. But then I wanted her to disappear, so no one would know that I had an “Alice.” I didn't want anyone to think I was a slacker. No one seemed very interested, least of all my husband, who was reading the paper and only half-listening. So I finally made myself get up to prepare dinner (it's in the oven), and I think we'll be eating around 8:30 p.m.

It's hard to remain steadfast, especially at this time of year. Summer beckons, and the desire to quit working so hard is strong. It can be especially difficult to remain faithful doing the little things well-all those thankless tasks we're tired of doing. Is there an area in your life where you feel tempted to procrastinate or quit? Yet, you know, like I do, that God is asking you to persevere and finish well?

Let's resolve to remain steadfast in what God has placed before us.

When I feel the urge to settle for mediocrity, I challenge myself with the following thoughts. They help me re-focus and remain steadfast. I hope they'll encourage you, too!

Challenge #1:
Keep your priorities straight.

When I'm sitting on the couch at 5 p.m. instead of staying faithful to the little things, it's often because I'm worn out. I've been going all day, and don't feel I have anything left to give. That's when I need to ask myself where I've spent my best efforts. Have all my energies been sapped by activities outside my home so that what I have to give my family is leftovers? Who gets my best? I say that my highest priority is my relationship with God, then my husband, then my children. I'm convicted by Psalm 101:2, “I will walk in my house with blameless heart.” It's going to be hard for me to apply this verse if I've given my best efforts elsewhere.

Challenge #2:
Focus on your long-range purpose.

When I'm feeling tired and bored with my responsibilities, it helps me to look up and look ahead. What is it that I'll want to have accomplished in five, ten, or twenty years? In what way is this small task a part of a bigger vision? Proverbs 29:18 reminds me, “Without vision the people perish.” We don't achieve our long-range purpose or vision through one heroic self-sacrificing event. Purposeful living is made up of many little decisions-small steps of faithfulness. Little things matter.

Challenge #3:
Finish well.

“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).This verse can be applied over a lifetime, and also to every day. At the close of each day, I ask myself, “Have I finished well? Have I given time to the things that matter most? Am I leaving undone things that are going to make tomorrow more difficult?”

Let's resolve to remain steadfast in what God has placed before us. Our summer rest will be all the sweeter when we feel we've given our best to what matters most.

Holding you close to my heart as I pray for you,
Lisa

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